Help me settle this: Vo2max recovery


Ive been discussing this with a friend.
My wo today was vo2 max. 1 minute at 120% followed by 2 minutes at 40%
He say I should crank up the recovery to 60% .

His comparison is: 40% would be the equivalent of walking while running, so why are you walking when you should be jogging after a 400 rep on the track (running).

I disagree with this, because I dont see the one-to-one comparison with running.

Is there something out there explaining why TR go to 40% instead of higher power?

If you can ride at 60% and not impact your 1 min intervals then that’s probably fine. But 40% is much better to ensure that you are fully recovered. The point of those 2 min is to recover not to add any additional training stimulus.

But what’s wrong with walking between 400m intervals? If you are a slower runner and your 40% is a walk but a more experienced runner’s 40% is a light jog then they are both getting the intended recovery. Just like if my FTP is 300 and yours is 200 then that 40% is 120W (jog) vs 80W(walk). The slower runner would be too fatigued from the jog to complete the 400s as intended just like the 200FTP rider might be too fatigued from the 120W recovery.


That was my rationalization as well…

Now he is trying to convince me to do a 20 min FTP test instead of the ramp!

Sounds like he’s just looking for someone to debate training with! haha


He is.

good intentions tho.
Trying to get me train at harder power level…

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Depends on whether you’re trying to increase capacity or power…

Im just trying not to die during the vo2max reps!


This topic might be discussed on a recent AACC podcast…? :man_shrugging:


Nice… ill look for it… unless you have the episode number…

Maybe this one?

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It was also on a FastLabs podcast - with Sebastian Weber.

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Sebastian Weber’s point has been to design recovery interval duration and power level with one eye toward reducing lactate produced during the vo2max interval.

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Is the purpose of the workout improving maximal O2 uptake or some kind of anaerobic capacity thing? If it was a TR workout, which one was it? I would just like to read the description.

Just curious as I did Bluebell this morning (sets of 6x 1min @120% / 1min @40%) and it got me breathing hard and heart rate in the same range as sweetspot intervals. Same workout, but with 2min @40% I think my heartrate and breathing would recover too much and it wouldn’t meet the intent of improving maximal 02 uptake.

Which workout is this?

Seems awfully easy…

Normally, work to rest has a minimum of 1:1 in VO2max sessions. The hard ones are 2:1.

It was Baird -1.

Yes it was not bad. This is recovery week after all.

I don’t have a concrete answer to your question, but regarding your friend’s running analogy- your 400m repeats may be followed by recoveries of varying intensities and duration depending on the nature of the workout, and I think that’s fairly applicable to cycling as well. The “classic” 400m track workout has jog recoveries of equal duration to the work period, however I’ve also done sessions structured more like Billat intervals where the recovery is more like tempo paces, speed reps with super long/easy recoveries, and cruise intervals with recoveries of less than thirty seconds. The last two aren’t v02 workouts, but hopefully illustrate how the rest period is informed by the intensity and duration of the preceding interval, the workout as a whole, and where you are in a training cycle. Arguing for a specific recovery intensity without that level of context is a fairly pointless endeavour IMO.
In any case, I think if you’re consistently completing your v02 workouts and seeing adaptations, that’s probably the best argument for doing what you’re doing. Gradual improvements in fitness aren’t quite as fun as trying to be a hero in the moment, but at the end of the day we’re all just chasing improvement :wink:

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Here’s a good discussion that touches on this topic from recent ACC podcast #259:

51:44 Why training all your energy systems in one workout is not efficient training

…in which Coach Chad explains the benefit of a full recovery between VO2 intervals and thus why those recovery valleys are @ 50% or less and not at 60%.


Here’s my 2c - protect the point of the workout.

Meaning: if the point of the Vo2 workout is to hit Vo2 levels, then the recovery interval intensity isn’t the point, the hard work is. So protect your ability to hit the high marks, rather than worrying if you’re working hard enough during the “rest” - the “rest” isn’t the point.

I’ve had coaches tell me that the pros drop down to 80-90 watts between hard work intervals…it makes sense to me.

Good luck :metal:


Consider though that a higher intensity recovery interval will cause VO2 to remain elevated between work intervals, meaning onset kinetics (how quickly VO2 changes, in this case rises to our ‘near-VO2max’ target) will be faster during subsequent intervals.

Also the power output required to elicit ‘near-VO2max’ from a higher baseline during the rest interval, will be lower for the same reason. More VO2 during that harder recovery interval had to go toward continued locomotion instead of actual recovery processes, so it takes a lower workload to perturb metabolic homeostasis and elicit a similar VO2 response.

So IMO it depends if the goal of your ‘VO2max’ session is to maximize total work (power output) or maximize duration near VO2max. Both are legitimate, and you could optimize either way with different interval programming. And you can definitely go overboard on recovery intensity, carry too much fatigue into the next work interval, and not be able to subsequently reach a high VO2 at all.

Edit: I actually prefer easy but short recovery intervals, to give the legs a chance to stop burning, but to keep systemic VO2 high. Other than that I don’t have a firm physiological rationale. Just personal preference.